Barnstable High School Students’ Creativity Opens Harvard Science Symposium

The Undiscovered
The Barnstable Patriot
December 6, 2018
By Susan Vaughn

Three Barnstable High School students, whose collaborative project was featured at Harvard’s 2018 Radcliffe Institute science symposium, impressed Barnstable School Committee and administrators with their work Wednesday night.

The focus of the Oct. 26 symposium was on how scientists explore realities they cannot anticipate. A poem that formed the basis of the students’ project also became the basis of a grant application for Barnstable Public Schools.

BHS Science teacher Michael Gyra said he was asked to do the poster section of the institute that is attended by renowned scholars. He sought out Ceili Magnus, Max Moynihan and Lillian DuChesney, who combined their literary and artistic talents to create a project that fit the symposium theme.

Speakers from across the disciplines of modern science were asked to discuss how to train scientists, educators and funders to foster the expertise and open-mindedness needed to reveal undiscovered aspects of the world around us.

In the poem Magnus wrote, “Method vs. Muse,” she asks why schools are so focused on students having all the right answers that they forget “we’re are poets and designers and dancers too.”

The poem urges schools “to teach young minds to fall in love with the unknown” and nurture their creativity. She was asked to read the poem as the invocation to the symposium, and the School Committee watched a video of her doing so.

Magnus said her goal in writing her poem was “to convey to others that the union of science and art is a worthy pursuit, and can have a far-reaching influence on both scientists and artists. I find this union vital and necessary. I do not want to be torn between these two worlds, and I believe I can find a way to meld them together.”

The committee also saw Moynihan’s stunning introduction to the poem that he created by stitching together 118 photos, which zoomed from a closeup of an eye out to an earth shape. He said he used a drone for some of the photos.

DuChesney told the school committee she had no problem coming up with her artistic creation for the poster that was displayed at the symposium.

After talking with the students about their experience, Superintendent of Schools Meg Mayo-Brown told them school administrators wrote a grant based on her poem “as the foundation of where we want to be.”

To Magnus, she said, “You’ll be pleased to know your influence is wide. Your poem is living on in other ways.”

The Mass Ideas grant is a $150,000 planning grant for a whole school redesign, with Barnstable Intermediate as the focus. School officials expect to hear the week of Dec. 17 if the grant is approved.

Method vs. Muse

People have drawn a thick line between art and science,

But what is science without the arts?

The questions that need to be asked can’t come from a formula

When for centuries they’ve been deeply rooted in hearts

Of geniuses and prophets

With brains full of thought.

It seems that over time humanity forgot

How to think critically

And to question with care.

In an age of internet access

The answers are always right there.

Schools are so focused on students

Having all the right answers

That they forget that we’re poets,

And designers, and dancers.

They drop facts on young minds

Like piles of heavy bricks,

And expect us to absorb information

Stacked miles thick.

They teach us so much

But now we need to build from it.

They marched with us to base camp,

But our goals are at the summit.

Applying what we know to explore

The unforseen, the undiscovered,

Is easier said than done when

Curiosities lie dormant and smothered.

Every day I see young minds

Afraid to ask questions.

It cripples the scientific world

At its very foundation.

Research never comes

Without curiosity, without a spark,

And my spark would have died, too,

But I found my light in the dark.

My creativity led me

To ask all the right things.

Now I stand here before you to ask:

“When will you change the tune that you sing?

What will it take for schools

To open their eyes

To a world of unmatched opportunity

That very clearly lies

In the minds of young people

Who still have their fire?

When will you take their thoughts

And lift them up higher?

Maybe you will be

The one to inspire

Someone’s great questions,

Someone’s desire.

Teach young minds

To fall in love with the unknown.

For every question we ask,

There are many more to go.

Nurture the creativity

We all harbor in our hearts,

And maybe we’ll give way

For a new way of thinking to start.”

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